Cover image for The Oxford encyclopedia of ancient Egypt
The Oxford encyclopedia of ancient Egypt
Redford, Donald B.
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
3 volumes : illustrations (some color), maps ; 29 cm
v. 1 A-F -- v. 2 G-O -- v. 3 P-Z.
Added Author:



Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DT58 .O94 2001 V.1 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ
DT58 .O94 2001 V.2 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ
DT58 .O94 2001 V.3 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ

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'Among the many article son history, there is a minor masterpiece on co-regencies by William Murnane' -John Ray, TLS'A particularly good feature of the Encyclopedia is the coverage given to the language.... The editors of the Encyclopedia have done an impressive job, commissioning articles from Friedrich Junge, Janet H. Johnson and John Tait. Work of this stature will do much to rehabilitate this aspect of the subject.' -John Ray, TLS

Author Notes

Donald B. Redford is at Pennsylvania State University.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The first English-language, multivolume reference work on ancient Egypt that spans all fields--archaeology, biography, history, language, social history, and more--combined with the imprint of arguably the world's most famous name in reference publishing results in work that, not surprisingly, should find its way to the shelves of virtually all public, academic, and even some secondary-school libraries. The ancient Egyptian civilization is one that has fascinated people from all walks of life for centuries, but it is only now that we have an English-language reference work that does justice to all aspects of this fascinating civilization. In development since 1994 (according to the preface), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (OEAE) "provides students, scholars, and the merely curious with the latest information on the civilization . . . tracing its history through the Islamic conquest of 642 CE--although the focus is on dynastic Egypt and its cultural complexity." Editor-in-chief Redford, of Pennsylvania State University, whose credits include being director of the Akhenaten Temple Project, has overseen a work featuring essays from more than 250 contributors from various countries and scholarly pursuits, all with solid academic credentials from institutions such as the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Universitat Heidelberg, University College London, University of Chicago (and its Oriental Institute), and many more. The preface outlines the decisions made on transliteration as well as the particularly thorny problem of a common chronology, as "it would ill serve the pedagogic and synthetic overview purposes of the present work to allow each contributor to decide on his or her own schema." OEAE features more than 600 scholarly yet eminently readable articles. Many of the lengthier articles are subdivided, each article subdivision with its own author. Sculpture, for example (at 33 pages the longest entry in the set), contains five separate articles: "An Overview," "Royal Sculpture," "Private Sculpture," "Divine Sculpture," and "Wood Sculpture." Each of these is signed by the author and includes its own bibliography. Other entries with similar subdivisions include the 26-page Grammar (divided into "An Overview," "Old Egyptian," "Middle Egyptian," "Late Egyptian," "Demotic," and "Coptic") and the 18-page Myths ("An Overview," "Creation Myths," "Osiris Cycle," "Solar Cycle," and "Lunar Cycle.") The bibliographies concluding every article are themselves virtually worth the price of the set, assembling sources from all languages and time periods. In keeping with the work's attempt to be a synthesis of contemporary scholarship "that would describe in detail where Egyptology stands, as a whole, in the year 2000," it is refreshing to see many bibliographies listing several works bearing publication dates in the 1980s and 1990s. There are many noteworthy entries in OEAE. Apart from the entries noted above, there are detailed discourses on topics as wide-ranging as Beer, Family, Hairstyles, Intoxication, Marriage and divorce, and Social stratification. Of course, there are plenty of entries on topics most closely associated with ancient Egypt: Horus, Isis, Osiris, Pyramids, and Tombs. There are also entries on some of those responsible for famous discoveries, such as Howard Carter, the discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhamun, and on topics of interest to the field of Egyptology as a whole (e.g., Egyptology, interpretation of evidence). There is even an article on Reference works, listing the more prominent titles in the field, divided by area of study. Maps are incorporated with wonderful effect, making one wish there were many more. The entry Theban Necropolis includes a plan depicting the location of various temples in relation to one another. Valley of the Kings has a full-page map showing a more-detailed plan of this famous area. There are some 400 black-and-white illustrations scattered throughout the text. The majority are photographs, but there are also some line-drawn maps and other drawings. Readers will also find a section of colored plates in volume two. OEAE concludes with a "Directory of Contributors," a "Synoptic Outline of Contents," and a detailed index that indicates page references for main entries in bold type. The "Synoptic Outline" is a particularly worthwhile enhancement, divided by major headings ("Egyptology," "Land and Resources," and "Religion," for example) with subdivisions within those, listing all articles covering the topic. There is no direct competitor to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, given its interdisciplinary nature. The Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt (Routledge, 1999) focuses primarily on archaeology and does not include some of the sociological articles the present work does (plus, at $250 for a single volume, it is pricey). Margaret Bunson's The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (Facts On File, 1991) and Rosalie David's Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt (Facts On File, 1998) are shorter and less scholarly in tone and more appropriate for secondary schools. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, with articles that should be understandable to an interested layperson, should find a home in most libraries. Though the $475 price tag may give smaller libraries some pause, one is not likely to encounter another work of this magnitude on a subject of such universal interest for some time.

Library Journal Review

Ancient Egypt fascinates. Until now, though, there has not been a single encyclopedic source for anyone seeking detailed information. It's been worth the wait. The scholars who worked on this encyclopedia are a veritable "Who's Who" of Egyptologists, starting with editor in chief Redford (classics and Mediterranean studies, Pennsylvania State Univ.). The material is as up-to-date as is possible in a printed source. The articles on the Theban necropolis and the Valley of the Kings are written by Kent Weeks, who excavated the tomb of the sons of Rameses the Great, and Zahi Hawass, director of the Giza pyramids, is one of the many scholars who acted as advisers. Despite a few irregularities (e.g., Hatspeshut was not Thutmose I's "Great Wife" but his daughter and wife of Thutmose II), the encyclopedia succeeds very well in distilling the state of scholarship on a variety of subjects. Articles cover the full range of ancient Egyptian topics, and then some. Of course, there are extensive articles about important kings, but other articles include such diverse figures as Moses, Plutarch, and Howard Carter. Broad topics such as historical periods, sites, art, and architecture are joined by more specific articles on dental care, hairstyles, erotica, and horoscopes to create a complex, detailed, and generally very readable text. It is difficult to judge the moderate (about 400) number of illustrations from the galley proof, and many articles (e.g., "hairstyles") would have been even clearer had they been illustrated, but what illustrations are included are clear and well placed. Academic and larger public libraries will find this an invaluable resource. Highly recommended.DMary Morgan Smith, Northland P.L., Pittsburgh (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This latest encyclopedia about ancient Egypt (always a popular topic) is distinguished by its authoritative approach, multidisciplinarity, and accessibility to students, scholars, and general readers alike. Its more than 600 alphabetically arranged entries, written by an international team of scholars, vary in length from a few paragraphs to a half dozen pages. The coverage, focusing on the dynastic period but including some earlier material, ranges from information about individuals, places, and events to discussions of major themes and theories, such as the origins of complex society and the debate over the African legacy in Egypt. Thus, these volumes present not only a picture of ancient Egypt as it is currently understood but of today's scholarship regarding it. Approximately 400 illustrations (photos, maps, line drawings), a directory of contributors, a synoptic outline of contents, and a 65-page index are also included. An excellent addition to reference collections in a broad cross-section of libraries and fields of study. M. R. Dittemore Smithsonian Institution Libraries